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Lynne Stewart convicted, but vows to fight on New York defense lawyer Lynne Stewart was convicted last week of helping the outlawed anti-Egyptian organization Islamic Group communicate with her client, imprisoned Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, who is serving a life sentence for seditious conspiracy against the United States. Stewart, 65, will be sentenced on July 15. Prosecutors persuaded the jury that Stewart was the key figure in a conspiracy to violate and evade prison restrictions on the sheik, that she lied when she made written promises to abide by the restrictions and that she broke the law when she issued a press release for the sheik announcing his withdrawal of support for a ceasefire on attacks by Islamic Group. Stewart claimed that the prosecution was a direct assault on the attorney-client privilege and her obligation to represent her client zealously. But the prosecutors argued, and proved, that Stewart had crossed the line in representing the sheik. The first line of attack for Stewart’s attorneys, Michael Tigar and Jill Shellow-Lavine, will be post-trial motions to Judge John Koeltl of New York’s southern district under Rule 29 asking him to set aside the verdict. “We will argue that there was insufficient evidence and the judge should, at this point, take the case from the jury,” Shellow-Lavine said. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales released a statement last week praising the prosecution team and calling the verdict “an important step in the Justice Department’s war on terrorism.” Pharmaceutical group pushes for Calif. fee cap As lawsuits mount against drug makers, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America is planning a ballot initiative aimed at capping contingency fees in California at 20%. The proposed measure was filed recently with the state attorney general’s office to be officially titled and summarized-a necessary step before proponents can circulate petitions to qualify it for the ballot. Merrill Jacobs, PhRMA’s deputy vice president, confirmed last week that his organization hopes to put the initiative before voters in November, should Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger call a special election for his plans to reform California government. To make the fall ballot, PhRMA must obtain more than 330,000 valid signatures. “There’s enough money. If they get those people out on the streets with petitions, they could do it,” said Sharon Arkin, president of Consumer Attorneys of California. “The Vioxx cases heated up, the evidence shows that they were deliberately marketing a drug that they knew was going to hurt people, and now they want a fee cap.” Legal big guns join forces to serve poor in L.A. Several of the country’s biggest law firms have joined forces with legal services organizations in the Los Angeles area to form the L.A. Pro Bono Council. Spearheaded by California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald George, the group seeks to provide representation to low-income residents in the Los Angeles area. Sixteen of the country’s top firms, including Latham & Watkins, Morrison & Foerster, Jones Day and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, served on the group’s organizing committee. Legal service organizations involved in the initiative are Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, Neighborhood Legal Services and Public Counsel and many others. Buchanan taps Slotnick Most of the nation’s major law firms have made no secret of their desire to expand their criminal defense practices, as long as the defendants are “white collar.” Buchanan Ingersoll is no different. But to lead its effort in New York, the Pittsburgh-based firm has tapped a lawyer best known for representing clients such as subway vigilante Bernhard Goetz and Vincent “the Chin” Gigante, a reputed organized crime boss. Barry Slotnick and the nine other lawyers at Slotnick, Shapiro & Crocker have agreed to join the New York office of Buchanan Ingersoll. With the addition, the New York office will account for about 50 of the firm’s 340 lawyers. N.Y.’s chief judge makes a pitch for higher pay In an impassioned plea for higher judicial salaries, New York Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye called on the state Legislature last week to boost the pay of judges for the first time since 1999. Kaye declined to request a specific increase. She suggested that judicial salaries in New York should keep pace with the salaries of federal judges. Although New York and federal trial judges both made $136,700 in 1999, U.S. district court judges are now paid $162,100.

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